punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hazards of Grandma's House

In this post I am not going to talk about the traditional 'hazards' of visiting grandparents' houses (i.e. the kids becoming too spoiled, or unwanted interference in your parenting). Instead, the title refers to the bodily hazards posed by some, shall we say, cultural outdoor landscaping common in the West, especially amongst Latinos. 

You see, I’m Hispanic (don’t let the married surname fool you) and so I’m intimately acquainted with how Latin-American gardens and backyards require an assortment of threatening cacti and rocks that your family has “lifted” from the desert through the years (because we all routinely travel to the southwest, dontchaknow?).  These items feature in our gardens before any consideration is given for the potential of the harm they pose to small children - they are pretty, to be fair.  In this case, it’s decoration over function, unless function means occasionally running to the emergency room (make that the bathroom sink with some rubbing alcohol and some pliers) with your kid.

Also, our yards most likely include algae coated water features and statues of saints.  More on these in a moment.

I’d like to believe that these items are set up in our gardens with the intention of making Hispanic children wiser, stronger and perchance, more pious.  You see, a child acquires the savvy to avoid playing near a cactus plant in an instant.  What better teacher than a prong through your fingertip, or several covering your abdomen, to deter you forever? It's no fun, but, hey, it works!

Also, we learn the verbal code for when anything is dangerous.  For as long I can remember, if we children were in danger of touching something potentially hazardous, my parents would shriek in unison, “Pika-PIKA!” which is commonly used around cactus plants.  It refers to the sharp prick of a cactus' spines.  And so, growing up you know that you should not go near something because it's pika-pika. (If you try this on your kids, keep in mind that it’s mandatory to say ‘pika’ at least twice in quick succession).

Children may also become stronger physically, thanks to these items.  Skin, as we all know, becomes stronger after it has scabbed and scarred.  And let’s not forget the gift of a stronger immune system due to the algae in that germ infested birdbath.  After all, if it doesn’t kill you…

The presence of a saint's effigy may cause a child to make several acts of faith, especially when asking Our Lady or St. Francis of a Assisi to intercede as their soccer ball, yet again, has rolled into that magnet-for-your-toys bed of cacti.  

Alright, I’ve given you a taste of my childhood.  Am I wiser, stronger and more pious due to eventually being able to navigate my parents and grandparents’ backyards without calamity?  I’m not sure, but, as my mom likes to remind me: I survived my youth and am now ‘super’ Catholic.  How much of this I owe to our back garden, I just don’t know.

Fast-forward to my adulthood and having two kids under four years old.  The generation playing out back may have changed but the hazards haven’t. The hazards of grandma’s house, that is (dum dum dum).  

Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I love visiting Nana’s (my grandma or the kids' great-grandma's) and Yaya’s (grandma's or my mom's) houses.  It’s the only 'yard time' my kids get - otherwise we’re at public parks (we don't have a yard). However, unlike those parks, it is with great trepidation that I send them out to "play," read: give me a heart attack every two seconds.  And my reason for my being nervous should be obvious: which objects do you think my kids run for? Every. Single. Time.

You guessed it, the birdbath, the stones and the cactus lined perimeter of Nana’s pool, of course (it's just so fun to run on it really, really fast!).  It never fails that I’m the one beseeching the Our Lady and St. Francis statues, “Please, please don’t let my kids stick their hands in the yucky water, fall on the pika-pika cactus plants or bean each other with the stones!”

I guess my prayers were answered because, the other day, my eighteen month old son took to hurling a ball repeatedly into the microorganism laden bird-bath instead.  He enjoyed the splashing, and I didn’t mind so much about the water getting on his clothes.  What doesn’t kill him, after all…

Yaya’s house (my mom’s place) is a bit more child-friendly – no cactus, just a raised planting bed to bring the spiders up to waist-level for my kids.  Water feature? Check. Disclaimer: it’s not a birdbath, it’s a fountain, but birds bathe in it and it turns green sometimes, so whatever. Stones?  Yup. Lots of them. Virgin Mary statue? Of course!  Need you even ask?  We’re Mexican, after all, and it wouldn’t be a properly, Hispanic garden without one.

I haven’t even gotten started on the dogs and all the fun that goes along with them.  But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out what could go wrong with those.

Far, far away, on the south coast of England, in my husband’s childhood backyard there’s a lawn, a tree and some hydrangeas, I think.  But wait, they're all strong, wise and pious people too!  So that blows my theory out of the water - the grimy, jello-textured birdbath water, that is.

Mom, grandma, if you both are reading this, first, I love you!  Second, I love most things about your yards - the fruit trees, the 'other' trees (whatever they are - they're nice), the annual salsa plants you both cultivate every year (tomatoes, jalepenos etc).  Oh, but why am I including a link to child friendly play structures here and here so close to Christmas?  I don't know, but let's just say I'd rather the kids be praying to Our Lady as they slid down a slide, rather than into an Ocatillo!

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